I did it! For the first year ever, I have read all of the books on the Booker shortlist before the winner was announced. This is due in large part to an amazing interlibrary loan department where I work. They even tracked down a copy of Umbrella by Will Self, which doesn't come out in this country until January 2013. I believe I actually time traveled to read this book. I had an ARC of one title (the Mantel) from the Orange January/July hostess, bought an eBook of The Lighthouse, and my library had Narcopolis.
First, I'd like to list the novels by what I thought was the best, then second best. After that I'm going to ruminate on reasons why the judges might choose each novel, and what in each novel might make them turn away.
My personal list of preference:
1. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (read my review)
2. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (read my review)
3. The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (read my review)
4. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (read my review)
5. Umbrella by Will Self (read my review)
6. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (read my review)
Pros and cons for each, and what I think the judges might think:
The Garden of Evening Mists
Pro: Beautifully written, interesting period of history, good story
Con: I've heard it is like a female version of a story he was already nominated for. I think a lack of freshness could sully the votes.
Pro: Former British Empire (always seems to get them), storytelling technique
Con: Too edgy (I loved the edgy. Sometimes I want to put this above the Eng.)
Pro: Good pacing, good story, heartbreakingly lonely characters.
Con: Pretty short, maybe too simple, and something short and powerful and lonely won last year.
Bring Up the Bodies
Pro: Well told, good pacing
Con: She already won for a book that is the first in the trilogy that this follows in. This may be a better book but lacks the freshness again.
Pro: Postpostpostpostmodernism and for everything it attempts to do and be.
Con: Practically unreadable.
Pro: Reads like a play, some great quotes
Con: Somewhat forgettable, not really a standout.
The winner is announced tomorrow, where we will see if the judges think anything close to how I think. What did YOU think? :)